South African Government Adopts Open Source Policy

The South African government announced Thursday it is ditching proprietary software for a new policy and strategy based on free and open source software.

Under the new plan, all new software developed for or by the government of South Africa will be based on open standards. Adopting open standards in itself doesn’t require the solutions to be open source or free; however, the government did say it plans to migrate its current software to free and open source software.

Shrink Costs, Expand Skills

The South African government says this strategy will, among other things, lower administration costs and enhance local IT skills.

In addition, the government says all the major IT vendors in South Africa have both supported the initiative as well as made contributions to the development of free and open source software.

The South African government didn’t reveal a time line, however, it plans to set up a new project office next month to lead the transformation.

Free Is Not Enough

The use of open source solutions has been on the rise within government, particularly within governments outside of the United States, Gordon Haff, principal IT advisor and analyst for Illuminata, told LinuxInsider. The decision to move to open source, however, doesn’t always come simply because the software is free.

“It has proven to be difficult to justify big deployments of desktop linux, strictly from a dollars and cents perspective, which is why you haven’t seen wholesale conversion, for instance, in U.S. enterprises to desktop linux,” Haff explained.

Increased Adoption

“We have seen some level of adoption of desktop linux, though perhaps not as much as some proponents have wanted, in the public sector outside of the U.S., because those judgments aren’t based purely on a total cost of ownership type of study.”

For example, “In the ways that desktop linux might trail [other operating systems], they have the opportunity to localize it and add enhancements in the ways that they want to — utilizing local talent and local people rather than just sending a check to Microsoft,” Haff noted. “That’s obviously an over simplification … but open source lends itself more clearly to that sort of a model.”

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